Kanye West x Picasso: 808’s & Heartbreak x Blue Period Comparison
UPDATE: Read the updated post here!
Due to the positive response of previous hip-hop/modern art post, I am continuing with a more in depth comparison.
While trying to precisely connect musician with painter, many things came to mind ranging from Janelle Monae to Cee-Lo Green and finally to Kanye West. Kanye West is a great candidate for artistic comparison because he is more in touch with his spiritual side than many other rappers. And it is the spirit that usually inspires artist. My original plan was to connect his 30-minute “Runaway” film to Picasso’s rose period. This being because both ooze the color red. But Picasso’s rose period was not quite as rosey as I expected. When I then thought of Picasso’s blue period, I immediately knew that this was equivalent to Kanye West’s 2008 “808’s & Heartbreak” album.
Upon listening to the album, I honestly see the images Kanye describes in black-and-white, as if his lost love took away the “color” from his life. It is not as simple as saying that Kanye West feels “blue” on this album thus it’s like Picasso’s blue period. The end. No! Incorrect! It is a bit more complex than that.
It is connected through emotion. The entire “808’s” album is full of Kanye mourning the loss of his love and recovering from the damage she inflicted (she must feel really bad about herself right now) as well as the death of his mother. And in the case of Picasso, he was mourning the death of a friend, which is why his color palette changed. In a way both artist were changing their palettes. In the case of Kanye he was using darker beats and Auto-Tune instead of more up-tempo tunes. Picasso’s color palette was Cezannian and fauvism inspired, meaning that it was colorful to a palette where the majority of the colors are variations of blue.
Is it starting to come together?
My conversation with NJ-based artist, Luca Molnar, brought to my attention how these bodies of work were also created out of artist who were forced to create in unknown ways due to their emotion unstability hindering from creating in their usual manner. For example Kanye West recorded his album in Hawaii because that was the only place he could find peace.
TANGENT ALERT: If you read the previous post where I correlate Kanye West to my favorite painter, Jean-Michel Basquiat, you will know what I have already established as the connecting threads. Another one is that Kanye found solace in Hawaii. The same can be said about Basquiat. It has been said that Hawaii was the only place where he did not use drugs. Interesante, aye?.
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Luca was also able to connect “Heartless” with Picasso’s “Woman with Crossed Arms”. She mentioned that it was more than the center of both pieces being a woman but rather it is the sentiment that connects them. They both embody a feeling of sadness but “Heartless” is primarily about actually heartbreak and is more animated (literally and figuratively) while “Woman With Crossed Arms” personifies a more general sense of sadness and depression that is underlying in “Heartless”
(In the video he even literally turns blue. His wardrobe on the onset features a brightly color sweater but by the end of the video his attire changes to a monochromatic palette of silvers and gray. While the women are all depicted in vivid colors)
It even connects as the artist evolved out of this stage. After this 2-3 year blue period, Picasso immediately moves into his rose period where red is the dominant color. The exact same thing happens to Kanye. His next album was 2010’s “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” which, as I previously stated, not only has music videos that use red as the central color but the sound of the album is a deep rouge.
Go listen and see what color you visualize the sound of the album to be?
In all, these are both the kings of their respective realm. So next time you hear Kanye’s music, make sure you see it too.